Burnout

Dealing with burnout

What does burnout mean?

In terms of human beings, burnout is widely regarded as a healthcare issue. In fact, it is defined by the World Health Organisation as a syndrome, a type of condition that can be diagnosed when a series of different symptoms occur at the same time. Burnout can occur in many ways, and it often affects people uniquely. However, the primary form of the syndrome that healthcare professionals experience is referred to as workplace burnout. This occurs when people have been working for a prolonged period without sufficient respite, usually under a great deal of stress. Sometimes the condition comes on gradually, but in other cases, it can lead to a traumatic event which is debilitating. Since it is a widespread phenomenon, multiple definitions are available, of which no single one has established itself as the dominant explanation.

 Can burnout cause depression?

 It is not possible to say burnout itself causes clinical depression. However, people who are suffering from the syndrome will often show a range of depressive symptoms. These include, but are not limited to, sleep deprivation, low mood feelings, cognitive alterations and lethargy. In fact, Herbert Freudenberger, who was the first psychologist to publish in an academic journal using the terms 'burnout', referred to burned-out people as looking, acting and seeming depressed.

Are burnout and stress the same?

It is important not to conflate burnout and stress. This is because stress, especially when it is felt in the workplace, is not necessarily a problem for many workers unless it goes on unchecked. When people start to feel burned out, it is usually because there have not been sufficient breaks from stressful situations or that the level of stress they have been put under has reached intolerable levels. In other words, excessive stress – along with other factors - may lead to someone being burned out, but they are not precisely the same thing.

Which risk factors are associated with burnout?

Research suggests that workers who may be susceptible to burnout have been working in a crucial role with lots of responsibility for a long time. This is especially the case when the role is not sufficiently recognised, supported or rewarded. People who are more predisposed to conditions like anxiety or depression are also considered to be more susceptible to burnout because they are usually less able to cope with the stressors they face. Too few resources, excessive workloads and carrying too much responsibility are common factors reported by people who have become burned out.

How can you avoid burnout?

Taking more rest, avoiding overly long hours and seeking assistance from colleagues are all good ways to avoid burnout. Developing a cynical attitude to the workplace is something to be avoided, too. If this applies to you, try to talk openly with your boss about the situation or, if all other measures fail, look for alternative work opportunities before you burn yourself out.

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Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as fear, agitation, edginess or worry. The sense of anxiety can range from mild to severe, and the duration that it's felt varies between people also. We all develop feelings of anxiety at some point in our lives. For example, if we have a job interview, exam, facing confrontation, or even when we're going to the dentist! During times like these, feeling anxious is expected and nothing to worry about. However, sometimes, people find it difficult to control their fears and worry. Their feelings of anxiety are felt more often, perhaps regularly, and can impact their day-to-day lives, causing problems. Indeed, anxiety is a significant symptom of many mental health conditions, such as panic disorder, phobias (such as agoraphobia), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
The term work life balance relates to a harmonious state where the demands of work and home life are in equilibrium. In other words, people with a good work life balance do not have too many demands in their personal life that impact negatively on their ability to perform well in their job. Equally, their work is not so demanding or stressful that they are not truly present for their loved ones or so busy that they never have time for them. Most people strive for a good balance between work and life even though it may see-saw from time-to-time. When a work life balance is out of kilter, people can feel very pressurised and, in the worst cases, it can even lead to developing certain mental health disorders for a time.
At its simplest, stress management is the term that is used to cover a wide range of different techniques that will help you to lower the feelings of stress you experience in daily life. Although some aspects of stress management are there to help with high levels of peak tension, known as acute stress, some are more focused on long-term feelings of strain, known as chronic stress. Either way, the idea is to lower the levels of things like cortisol, a hormone that is known to be related to feelings of anxiety and stress. When we learn techniques that will help to lower stress and deploy them properly, this is when stress can go from being something out of our control to a manageable phenomenon. In this regard, stress management is not dissimilar to anger management.
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